Date published: 3 July 2024

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After many years working within the NHS, I’m aware the variety of roles and different jobs is almost endless, but for this month’s blog I’d like to focus on an area which those of you who work within a clinical setting will all be familiar with – patient information systems.

Each and every NHS worker will know that healthcare is a fast developing landscape and practices which were considered the norm just a few years ago, are now looked upon as historic. The integration of technology is a case in point and plays a key role in improving patient experience, efficiency and outcomes, which is crucial at a time when the public pound is required to stretch further and further.

I’m sure I could ask most of our clinical colleagues for their feedback on existing patient information systems and none of them quite fulfil everything we require, whether it is data on risk factors or capacity of wards.

Mersey Care prides itself on finding solutions to problems so, determined to overcome these challenges with patient information systems, we’re currently working towards designing our own platform. We aim to deliver a new system that not only meets our needs but also sets new standards for patient safety and delivery of our services.

Commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in response to national feedback on driving safer, higher quality care for patients and staff in an inpatient setting, we intend the dashboard to be more than just a database and is designed to help with the early and holistic identification of risk indicators on our mental health wards. The DHSC have asked us to design a dashboard which can eventually be deployed nationally across all mental health trusts.

It will use the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to bring together multiple data sets and provide an overview of environmental, cultural and patient factors. The algorithm which powers it will also be able to predict the likelihood of incidents, offering insights at the Trust, hospital, and ward level. Examples of what the dashboard may look like, using test data, are below.

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Like most of the best innovations at Mersey Care, this will be co-designed both by those who will use it most (our workforce) and those who will benefit from it (our patients and service users).

There have been significant discussions with patients and service users, asking them what makes them feel safe as an inpatient. It will highlight patient feedback, enabling staff to better understand what patients are telling them and the dashboard is also informed by the national Inpatient Quality Transformation Programme which focusses heavily on improving quality of care for patients.

Our workforce has also been integral to the design process, reducing those administrative irritations that new technology often highlights, and should enable us to provide a Quality Improvement approach to all levels of our healthcare. The platform will use data already entered elsewhere, removing the necessity of additional admin required to populate the tool and will also allow staff to view data on one system when they previously would have had to look at multiple systems.

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The second phase to this development will involve small pilot studies over the next eight months, when we will be using live data. These pilots will be crucial in informing future decisions about the wider deployment of this platform, which we hope will benefit not just Mersey Care but all mental health trusts across the NHS system.

It's not the first time Mersey Care has developed systems or practices which have subsequently been adapted in other parts of the country. We’ve shared our insights into Restorative Just and Learning Culture, our Life Rooms programme, our commitment to zero suicides including the establishment of the Zero Suicide Alliance and reducing restrictive practice. There's also the ground breaking international work with Mersey Care’s HOPE(S) programme, which reduces the use of long term segregation sometimes experienced by autistic adults, adults with a learning disability and children and young people, and our innovative Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre, to name just a few. 

We hope this platform will be another example of how this Trust, and the expertise of those working within it, can make a real difference to how patient care is evolving as the NHS moves towards a new digital future.

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive Officer

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust